Boggarting your character

Remember meeting boggarts way back in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? A creature that shapes itself into whatever you fear the most. How terrifying is that?

But what a brilliant creation! Forcing the characters to face their fears and showing their reactions not only developed the characters better, it humanized them, brought them a little closer to our hearts. Fear is a universal emotion, but everyone deals with it differently. Therefore, fear is a great way to make your character more relatable, but also to give your character more distinct traits.

So for this week’s challenge, ponder:

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Put your character up against what he/she fears most. What is it? How does your character respond? What does fear feel like to your character?

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Happy writing!

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The fading trauma of poetry

I loved all of my freshman creative writing class except for one section: poetry.

For the first week, I tried really, really hard to appreciate the poems we read and to remember the forms we talked about. But it was pure torture, and by the time I had to write 100 lines of poetry, I was desperate to get it over with as quickly as possible. Among the gems I composed were a free-verse poem about narwhals and a rondeau about the misery of finals week. Instant classics, I assure you.

This was not helped by that class where I was given twenty minutes to read and interpret five German poems and then present to the class. And two of the poems were Rilke, for heaven’s sake! I still can’t face Rilke without wanting to die.

But, Rilke aside, I have grown through the years to appreciate, even enjoy poetry beyond The Cremation of Sam McGee (although that remains a true favorite around the campfire). There are poems that are the perfect mixture of music and words, and those are the ones that have taken up residence in my heart and soul.

For example (with a few favorite lines—click the title to read the whole poem):

The Day is Done (Longfellow)

Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

The House by the Side of the Road (Foss)

Let me live in my house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish – so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

The Builders (Longfellow)

All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.

Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.

How do you feel about poetry? What are some of your favorites? Are you one of those daring souls who writes poetry?

Stories within your story: Creation

It was a beautiful Easter weekend! I spent time with family, listened to leaders of my church speak at a general conference, and ate a lot of food. Scout wasn’t super into the egg hunt, but she was more than happy to eat the candy Daddy found for her.

I was explaining to someone this weekend that, although Easter is now widely viewed as a religious holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, many of the widespread Easter traditions (e.g. Easter eggs, Easter bunny) come from its origins as a pagan festival.

It took me back to my days at Intercultural Outreach, where I read and researched about all kinds of cultural traditions, both modern and ancient. The most common cultural tradition touched on was the creation myth. We all came from somewhere, and every culture has its own explanation of where that somewhere was.

The same should hold true in the worlds that you create in your writing. So as you create your own cultures and worlds within your stories, consider this:

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What is the prevailing creation myth in your novel’s culture? What does your character believe regarding this creation myth?

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